A result the Rugby Championship and international game needed: While we rightly marvel at the brilliance of New Zealand, it has become, well, boring watching the three-time world champions completely dominate the sport since 2011. No one has really come close and both South Africa and Australia have endured their issues, while Argentina are not nearly good enough yet, but this will give everyone hope that the All Blacks can be challenged. It has certainly made their tour to the northern hemisphere very interesting.
New Zealand guilty of complacency: The remarkable thing about New Zealand is their ability to bring the same intensity for effectively every match, even when they have achieved everything in the game, but their blistering start evidently gave them a false sense of security. The All Blacks began to make uncharacteristic errors, allowing South Africa back into the contest. It crucially gave the visitors belief and, despite a wobble at the end, they held on and kept the Rugby Championship alive for another week.
Pressure is king: It is funny what it can do, even to the best. While Jordie Barrett’s brain fade would usually be deemed a one-off, it provided a turning point and, as a result, New Zealand started to make some surprising mistakes. They started to force the game without front-foot ball and that led to Cheslin Kolbe’s intercept try. To their credit, they re-found their composure and roles were reversed in the final quarter with the Springboks conceding a number of penalties, which allowed the All Blacks easy possession and territory, but it was not enough and South Africa deservedly held on.
Malcolm Marx produces his best: It was surprising when the hooker was dropped for their game against Australia but it was perhaps what the Lions player needed. South Africa do not lack individual talent but too many of their key individuals have fallen below the required standard and Rassie Erasmus needed them to step up in Wellington. Marx duly did and was a crucial component in attack and defence. Several individuals provided able support and Pieter-Steph du Toit, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Franco Mostert and Warren Whiteley were all monumental, particularly defensively, but it was good to see Marx produce his best.
Beauden Barrett’s place-kicking proves costly: Whenever doubts over his kicking are cast, the two-time World Player of the Year tends to respond impressively, but his inaccuracy was a huge issue once again as the All Blacks lost by a narrow margin. He failed with four or his six conversion attempts, most of them eminently gettable, and questions will be asked as to whether someone else should take over. While it has not hampered the side over the years, simply because they are by far and away the best team, it may be a problem during a tight game in next year’s World Cup.